The Secret to Understand Fast-Talking Native English Speakers

Lesson Overview

Lesson Summary 

At school, you learn how to pronounce sounds perfectly and complete full English sentences – but out in the real world, the words you learned in the classroom sound quite different! Fast-talking English speakers often connect words and delete or change sounds when speaking natural pace – so, what you *expect* to hear and what you *do* hear can be quite different!

In this week’s video, you’ll learn 30 of the most common English reductions. Words and expressions that you hear every day, in every English conversation, that sound completely different to what you expect to hear!

This lesson holds the secret to understanding fast-talking, native English speakers!

Watch the video, say the words with me, and download the free PDF workbook I made for you too. It’s packed with everything you need to know about this lesson – the reductions, the phonemes, example sentences, and the extra practice activities!

Video Transcript
Section 1
Well hey there I’m Emma from mmmEnglish and this is a lesson I’m excited about because we’re going to be working on your listening skills, especially to help you understand fast-talking native English speakers.

The secret is reductions. I know that for so many of my students, it is hard to understand native English speakers in real life, when you’re watching movies or you’re watching TV because some of us speak so quickly.

We connect words, we delete, we change sounds. There is a huge difference between the word that you expect to hear, the word that you learned and then the word that actually comes out of our mouths, right? So to help you understand native English speakers, I’m going to help you to practise and to recognise the most common reductions, the ones that you hear native speakers use every day,

I’m going to help you to practise hearing them but also practise using them if you want to.

You’ll also find a PDF download with all of the expressions that we’ll practise in today’s lesson including the pronunciation notes and some example sentences that you can practise with at home.

There’s also the answers to the quiz which is going to be at the end of this video so make sure you stick with me until the end, grab the workbook, the link is down in the description below.

What makes listening to native English speakers so hard? I think there are a few different answers to this question but one in particular that I want to highlight for you is that you learn English at school like this:

What are you doing this afternoon?

And then you go out into the real world and you hear this:

What are you doin’ this arvo?

The sounds that you associate with these words here need to adjust, don’t they? You need to teach your brain to recognise the sounds and to associate them with the words that you already know so that your brain’s not hearing something strange but then sifting through your head going:

What’s sarvo?

We just need to train your brain to hear ‘sarvo’ and associate it with this afternoon. To be fair, ‘sarvo’ is a very Australian expression.

The expressions that you hear and you learn in this lesson today are really common across different types of English. They’re used in lots of different places where English is spoken and the lesson is going to help you to understand TV shows a little better, it’s going to help you to understand fast-talking native English speakers and if you are ready to take on some of these expressions yourself, it’s going to help you to sound a little more natural as you speak in English as well.

So let’s get started with some really common greetings that often get reduced.

1. How’s it going?

Try it. How’s it going?

This is like how is life going? How are things going? I hope, you know, you’re well – it’s a really common greeting that we use all the time.

2. How are you going?

That R is completely dropped, right? Well, you might hear a little schwa,

How are you going?

And notice as well that that -ng sound at the end drops.

How are you going? How are you? Super short, right? How are you?

Let’s listen one more time just to get used to those sounds of these really common greetings.

  • How’s it going?
  • How are you going?

3. How are you?

You is one of the most common English words. We use it all of the time in lots of different expressions and it’s often unstressed so it often sounds quite different.

4. What do you

What do you can sound like whaddaya.

  • What do you want for dinner?

But we also say whatcha?

  • Whatcha want for dinner?

You’ll hear both of these forms being used by native speakers. If you want to try it out for yourself then just choose the one that feels most comfortable for you, the sounds that are most comfortable for you, try it.

  • What do you want for dinner?
  • Whatcha want for dinner?

But here’s the thing, ‘what do you‘ and ‘whatcha’ can also mean what are you?

5. What are you?

  • What are you doing tomorrow?

The secret to knowing exactly what expression is being used is to listen to the verb that follows. If it’s the base form, then it’s in the present tense and the auxiliary verb is do. If it’s in the -ing form, it’s the continuous tense and our auxiliary verb is be.

6. Where do you…?

Let’s talk about where do you.

So we’ve got do and you, both of the vowel sounds reduce to the schwa and they connect, don’t they?

  • Where do you want to go?

We can also use that sound like we were practising earlier. Instead of ‘where do you’. Where do you want to go?

7. Do you…

And if we just look at do you, it can sound like do ya. Do you like it?

But it can also sound like Do you like it? Try it.

8. Do you want to?

Do you wanna?

This one is even more connected than the previous one, isn’t it? Can you hear how ‘do you want to’ when it’s said really quickly, it sounds like Do you wanna?

  • Do you wanna go get lunch?
  • Do you want to go get lunch?

9. Could you

Could you becomes could you.

  • Could you pass the salt?

10. Would you

  • Would you like to watch a movie tonight?

What about when that becomes a negative modal, wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you agree?

When we’re talking about reductions it’s really common for vowel sounds to reduce to the schwa sound so they become unstressed, softer, lower in pitch and so with the verb have, we have the vowel sound that we learned, right?

11. Should have

But it’s reduced down to the schwa. So when you look at should have, we reduce that down it becomes should have or it’s also common that that V gets dropped as well in spoken English so instead of hearing should have, you just hear the schwa sound as have, should have.

  • I should have thought about that.

12. Would have

It’s the same role for would have, you might hear would have or woulda.

  • I would have been here sooner but the traffic was crazy.

Try it.

13. Could have 

Could have becomes could’ve or could’ve.

  • I could have been here sooner but I got held up.

14. Might have

And again with might have.

Now I want to draw your attention to what’s actually happening here. The reduced word is the same, have, but the reduction and the way that it sounds often changes depending on the letter that comes after it.

So using might have, as an example, you might hear might have.

  • He might have done it already.

So in this sentence, the word after might have starts with a consonant sound, right? So it becomes might have, the ending is just a schwa.

But you will also hear might have, just like we were practising with the other modals with have. Might have. If the word starts with a vowel following then we hear that sound.

  • Might have already been there.

Now what is so interesting about these modal verbs with have, could have, should have, would have, might have, so with all of these reductions the word after have impacts the pronunciation.

  • Could have run.
  • Should have seen.
  • Would have done.
  • Might have been.

Now I’ve got one last little hint or tip that I want to give you about this might have or might have, it sounds like might of which is grammatically incorrect. This is a mistake that lots of native English speakers make too.

Might of is not actually a correct phrase or statement in English.

It’s always might have, it just sounds like might of.

  • I might have done it.
  • I might have been there.

It’s not might of but might have. Speaking of of, let’s talk about some reductions with of because there are several really common ones that I want to share. When of gets reduced, it reduces down to the schwa.

So listen out for them.

15. Kind of

We have kind of becomes kinda.

  • He’s kind of bossy, isn’t he?

16. Sort of

Sort of becomes sorta. You hear that flap T, sounds more like a D in my accent.

  • There has to be some sort of problem.

17. Some of

  • Pass me some of that!

18. Most of

  • We finished most of the food yesterday.

19. Out of

Out of becomes outta. You can hear that flapped T again in my accent, outta.

  • It’s late. Let’s get out of here.

20. Lots of

  • No need to rush. We’ve got lots of time.

21. A lot of

A lot of becomes alotta.

  • I won’t be able to make it. I’ve got a lot of work to do.

22. Going to

Now we’re gonna go through some reductions for two really, really common ones. Again we’re using the schwa sound so going to becomes gonna.

  • I’m not gonna make it tonight, sorry.

23. Got to

Got to. Gotta. Again, that flap T.

  • It’s late. We’ve got to get ready.

24. Want to 

Want to. Wanna. Hear that T? It’s completely gone. Wanna.

  • I want to leave by eight.

25. Ought to

A little less common but you’ll still hear it. Ought to.

  • You ought to go to bed.

That kind of sounds a lot like order, right? This is why it’s tricky.

26. Give me

You hear the verb give and let used with me all the time in English. Give me or let me do something.

Now because these are such common expressions and combinations, we get really lazy with the sounds. Give me. Let me.

So we just drop the end part of both of those verbs, you don’t hear give me, gimme.

  • I won’t be long, just give me a minute.

27. Let me

  • Let me check that for you.

28. I don’t know

How about this one? Don’t know. I don’t know.

  • I don’t know what you mean.

Again because it’s so common you might even see this written dunno.

29. Them

Them can sometimes be reduced right down to ’em. We don’t hear at all.

  • There isn’t enough space for all of them.

In the same way that them gets reduced, him and her can often be reduced down as well so you don’t hear the sound.

You might just hear: I’ll get him. Or I’ll get her.

30. Because

Do you know this one? How does it sound when it gets reduced down? Because.

I won’t make it tonight because I’ve got a birthday to go to.

Try it. Because. I’ve got a birthday.

This little challenge is gonna be a really great way to practise listening and hearing the new sounds and new ways of pronouncing the expressions that we went through today.

So get a pen and paper ready, write them down as we go. Let’s do it.

  • Are you going to come tonight?
  • Do you want to buy tickets?
  • I need to check. My friend might have bought tickets already.
  • What about you?
  • I’m going to stay in tonight because I’m really tired.
  • Spend some time with us, it’s going to be fun.
  • Yeah, you don’t want to be thinking: I should have been there.
  • You’re right. I don’t know what I want to do anymore.
  • What do you want to do on Saturday?
  • We’ve got to go check out that new market.
  • I’m not going to come on Saturday.
  • I have a lot of work to do. You guys have fun though!

So how did you go? Do you feel pretty confident about all of those expressions that you heard? If you want to check the answers, make sure you download the pdf that I made that goes along with this lesson.

You can download it using the link right below in the description. The cool thing is that once you do that I’m going to send you all of the PDF’s that I make for all of my lessons here on Youtube so you’ll never miss out!

I really do hope that you found this lesson useful and if you did, make sure you give it a like, that you bookmark this page or maybe even save the video, whatever you need to do to keep practising and keep reviewing these sounds and if you want to find out more about connected speech and linking words,

I’ve got a whole series about that and you can watch it right here. I’ll see you in the next lesson.

Links mentioned in the video

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